Administrators in Mexico will be meeting in the coming weeks to find out just how much a shortage of substitute teachers affected the district during the past academic year.

The meeting will attempt to identify the district’s fill rate -- that is, what percentage of the time requests for substitute teachers are being filled.

“If it’s a number that is 95 percent or better, then it’s probably something that won’t take as much change to tackle,” said Superintendent Dr. Zachary Templeton.

The issue of a shortage in available substitute teachers was discussed at the Mexico School District Board of Education meeting May 15, with a presentation given by Jennifer Barnett. Barnett is a member of the Salary and Welfare Committee as well as a science teacher at Mexico Middle School.

She discussed a number of obstacles that teachers faced in finding substitute teachers, stating that “sometimes taking a day off isn’t an option.”

According to the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, individuals interested in working as substitute teachers in Missouri need to apply online for a substitute certificate. A content substitute certificate is an option for individuals who can show proof they have completed at least 60 hours of credit from a “regionally accredited, academic degree-granting college or university.

“We’re here for growth, to make sure things are moving in a positive direction … forward and not backward,” Barnett said during the presentation.

She also stated that the software used by the district to contact substitutes, Aesop, had experienced glitches when it was needed to contact potential substitutes.

Templeton said he was not familiar with any software problems but stated that glitches were possible with the use of any software.

“An organization with multiple levels, sometimes what can happen is the person who can fix the problem is the last to know,” said Templeton. He said that the district paid about $7,000 for the program for the past academic year.

A number of potential solutions have begun to be discussed, including potentially outsourcing the selecting of substitute teachers similar to how some schools contract out busing and food service.

Templeton said contracting out the service would result in about a 30 percent upcharge in the cost of a substitute. He estimates that a substitute who costs around $80 per day would cost around $105 with the upcharge applied.

“That would be okay if you only have to pay for the overage you need but you have to pay it on everybody,” Templeton said.

“It comes down to really a simple equation: you either need fewer subs or you need to have more of the subs available.”

Other conversations included topics of recruitment, hiring permanent substitutes or incentivizing attendance for teachers.

The current compensation for a sub is about $85-$90 a day, Templeton said, depending on factors including qualifications and if the person subs consecutive days.

Whether a substitute or another teacher covers a classroom in a time of absence, Templeton said that students lose out any time the intended teacher is not in the classroom.

“We love our kids and enjoy our jobs but these seemingly little things are the things that weigh you down,” Barnett said during the meeting. She denied our request for comment for this story. .

This issue will be a topic of conversation on the agenda for June work session, to be held at 6 p.m. June 11.

ssabatke@mexicoledger.com